Mil News NATO Troops in Afgan

John A Silkstone

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Nato accused of failures in Afghanistan by head of Britain's Armed Forces

The head of the Armed Forces has accused Nato allies of "failing to resource" the military mission in Afghanistan, as Gordon Brown agreed to send as many as 1,000 more British troops to the country.

The criticism from Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup and the Prime Minister's decision to increase Britain's commitment came as Nato leaders met amid a growing rift over European members' refusal to send more troops to Afghanistan.

At a weekend summit of Nato members in Strasbourg that began last night, Mr Brown and Barack Obama, the US President, are making another attempt to persuade France, Germany and other European allies to put more of their troops on the front line to fight the Taliban.

At a joint press conference in Strasbourg with Mr Obama, President Nicholas Sarkozy of France again ducked the call for more soldiers.

"We totally endorse and support America's new strategy in Afghanistan. We are prepared to do more in terms of police training. We are helping Afghanistan rebuild," he said.

Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup said that while the strategy in tackling the Taliban was right, Nato has failed to provide enough troops or equipment on the ground.

"The problem is that we have failed to resource the strategy accurately," he said.

Asked if that was shifting the blame, the Chief of the Defence Staff replied: "Nonsense, it's blaming Nato for not resourcing the strategy that it set out in the first place."

In a Channel Four interview to be broadcast on Monday, Sir Jock was asked if the Afghan mission had enough men and materiel. He replied: "No it hasn't."

Sir Jock's comments are latest criticism of European allies by the British government. John Hutton, the Defence Secretary, suggested earlier this year that European Nato members are "freeloading" on the military sacrifice made by America and Britain.

Whitehall sources point to new figures that show a shortfall in commitment by both France and Germany in terms of troops on the ground. Britain has 4.2 per cent of its Armed Forces in Afghanistan. France and Germany have just over one per cent of their military deployed.

Britain has been resisting calls to announce an increase in its numbers in Afghanistan, hoping to maintain pressure on the Europeans to do more.

But as he arrived in Strasbourg, Mr Brown changed tack, offering a short-term boost in British troop numbers which officials said was conditional on other nations "sharing the burden" of NATO's Afghan mission.

Britain already has 8,300 troops in Afghanistan, second only to the United States. That figure could now rise above 9,000 this summer in a four-month deployment to boost security around the Afghan presidential election due in August.

The deployment, said to be in the "high hundreds", would be the largest single increase in UK personnel in Afghanistan for several years.

Officials were unable to provide an exact timetable for the likely arrival and departure of the extra UK forces. It is thought that the extra troops could come from 12 Mechanised Brigade, whose planned deployment to Iraq has been cancelled as Britain winds down its mission there.

A British official travelling with the Prime Minister said: "There is obviously a significant threat from the Taliban to disrupt these elections. A democratic, smooth-running Afghanistan is clearly in the interests of Britain.

"A democratic Afghanistan will mean more security on the streets of Britain.

"Therefore we are prepared to consider a temporary increase in our troops in Afghanistan to cover the elections, subject to appropriate burden-sharing."

However, Mr Brown may face awkward questions about the elections, where President Hamid Karzai is seeking re-election.

Mr Karzai has reportedly signed off a law passed by his parliament which would legalise rape within marriage and bar women from seeking work, education or medical treatment without their husband's agreement.

Mr Karzai's opponents have accused him of selling out basic human rights for women in return for the votes of conservative Shia Muslims in the elections.

On Friday, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, Nato Secretary-General, suggested that European countries may be justified in withholding more troops as a result.

Mr Scheffer told the BBC: "How can I defend this, and how can the British defend this, when our boys and girls are dying there in defence of universal values, and here is a law that fundamentally violates human rights?"
 
It does seem that all we get from the European Union is lip service. Sympathy and verbal support for the new objectives from President Obama and acceptance of the increased American and British troop presence in Afghanistan but little boots on the ground from the mighty German and French governments. My how things have changed from the old imperialistic Europe. Why fight for your own freedom or security when you can get others to do it for you. I think it's time for America to pull all U.S. troops out of Germany. We won the Cold War, the USSR is no more, let's move on and let Europe take care of their own problems, especially the militant Muslim populations that reside within their own borders. The future looks very dangerous if they ignore the present.
Semper Fi
 

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